The Phylogeny Fallacy and Teleosemantics: Types, Tokens, and the Explanatory Gap in the Naturalization of Intentionality


The use of evolutionary explanations to explain phenomena at the individual level has been described by various authors as an explanatory error, the so-called Phylogeny Fallacy. In this paper, this fallacy will be analyzed in the context of teleosemantics, a central project of the philosophy of mind whose main aim is to naturalize intentional systems by appealing to their biological teleofunctions. I will argue that those teleosemantics projects that invoke evolutionary functions generally commit the fallacy. First, I will point to various arguments in the literature that point to this fallacy. However, a more general argument will also be made. To illustrate this puzzling scenario, I will present two desiderata that any teleosemantic project must fulfill. I will argue that naturalizing intentionality based on natural selection creates an explanatory gap between types and tokens. This gap prohibits an adequate explanation of the desiderata. To close the gap, teleosemantics invokes replicator biology, a view of inheritance that has already been identified to commit the fallacy. This leads teleosemantics into a complex situation: to close the gap, it must commit the fallacy.

Author's Profile

Tiago Rama
Universidad de La Rep├║blica de Uruguay


Added to PP


6 months

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?